Ways to experience Indigenous culture across Ontario
Treat yourself to traditional and contemporary cuisine or apply innovative methods in learning a new skill. Don’t miss these Indigenous tourism experiences.
Tours and outdoor adventures
This award-winning Indigenous-owned ecotourism company offers unique tours with a zero-footprint objective. Located in Sault Ste. Marie, Thrive Tours provides guided tours and activities such as kayaking, camping, canoeing and snowshoeing with connections to nature through Indigenous storytelling and teachings. Tours are available for beginners to advanced adventurers. There are also options to customize experiences.
Details: year-round activities offered
Location: Sault Ste. Marie
Located in northeastern Manitoulin Island, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory is home to the people of the Three Fires Confederacy: the Ojibwa, Odawa and Pottawatomi Nations. Wikwemikong Tourism offers outdoor experiences on Manitoulin Island and in the Killarney region.
Learn to cook with natural ingredients sourced on a foraging hike. Experience advanced wilderness eco-adventures or take a “soft” adventure (requiring no experience) with your family. Wikwemikong Tourism also offers guided hiking and paddling in Point Grondine Park, a popular destination located between Killarney and French river where you can enjoy outdoor activities in the beautiful backcountry wilderness.
Details: tours are available May through November
Tip: book tours early to avoid disappointment
Algonquin Canoe Company rents canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboard (SUP) equipment, snowshoes and more. Their knowledgeable guides can provide you with suggestions and route recommendations before you go on a self-guided tour. Guided tours are also available.
Details: open year-round
Location: Long Sault Island, ON-63, Thorne
Tip: GPS points are available in traditional areas to highlight portage routes, sightseeing areas and other points of interest
Voyageur Wilderness is a family-run operation that has been providing enjoyable outdoor learning experiences in Quetico Provincial Park for over 60 years. They will outfit you with the right gear and share their knowledge with you on your overnight wilderness canoe trip.
Quetico Provincial Park is a popular paddling and fishing destination known for its remote and rugged landscape, with breathtakingly serene settings and pristine waters.
Details: tours are available from May to September
Location: Atikokan and Quetico Provincial Park
Tip: check out the rating system for canoe trips to see which canoe trips match your skills and fitness level
Don’t miss the unique opportunity to meet and interact with Anishinabe Ojibwe Spirit Horses. This friendly and calming breed of horses once roamed free in the wild in large herds, but they were on the brink of extinction. The descendants of these rare horses are at TJ Stables.
Learn about the strong spirituality and history of these gentle creatures and their connections to Indigenous culture through song and storytelling.
Details: overnight accommodation in a teepee or a cabin are also available
Location: 837 Gregory Drive East, Chatham
History and heritage
Designated as a national historic site, the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is Canada's most extensive botanical garden. The Journey to Anishinaabe Knowledge Trail is a permanent installation in the RBG Arboretum that allows you to take a self-guided tour that explains the Anishinaabe People's connection to plants and nature.
Details: check the RBG website for hours and maps since hours change seasonally
Location: 680 Plains Road West, Burlington
Learn about the Anishinaabe culture, history and spiritual teachings on Manitoulin Island. Workshops, events and a variety of other programs are also offered. Previous workshops have included sharing sacred stories, Anishinaabe style pottery classes, snowshoe making classes and more.
Details: check the website for hours of operation before visiting; open Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (closed for lunch 12:00–12:30 p.m.)
Tip: purchase Tea Horse, an Indigenous-owned artisanal tea, at the foundation’s gift shop
The mandate of the Woodland Cultural Centre is to “preserve, promote and strengthen the Indigenous language, culture, art and history.” Learn about Indigenous history, culture and tradition through guided and self-guided tours at the centre’s museum and gallery.
The centre hosts educational programs and events and often uses cultural interpreters to answer questions. There is also a gift shop on the property where you can buy books and products created by local Indigenous artists.
Details: open Monday–Friday 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Location: 184 Mohawk Street, Brantford
Indigenous art at museums and galleries
Under an hour’s drive northwest of Toronto, McMichael Canadian Art Collection showcases Inuit, Iningat Ilagiit and First Nations art, including the work of popular Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau (Copper Thunderbird) and acclaimed Ojibwa artist Carl Beam. Contemporary artists include photographer Meryl McMaster and Rebecca Belmore.
Details: open Tuesday to Sunday and holiday Mondays, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Location: 10365 Islington Ave, Kleinburg
Canada’s oldest cultural institution, the National Gallery of Canada is home to the largest collection of contemporary Indigenous art in the country.
Details: open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; Thursday, 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.; closed on Mondays
Location: 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa
Located in downtown Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) houses work by prominent Indigenous artists from Canada and around the world.
Details: open Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; Wednesday and Friday, 10:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; closed on Mondays
Location: 317 Dundas Street West, Ontario
Located in Ottawa’s Greenbelt, Mādahòkì Farm offers many ways for visitors of all ages to experience authentic Indigenous culture. Farm-to-table experiences reflect the importance of traditional food.
Mādahòkì Farm hosts events that honour the seasons, such as Sīgwan (spring), Tagwàgi (autumn) and Pibòn (winter) and the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival. You can also buy products from Indigenous artists and makers at the market on the farm.
Details: store hours are Thursday–Sunday, 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. (open year-round)
Location: 4420 West Hunt Club Road, Nepean
Tip: ethically sourced Fair-trade chocolate, Raven Rising, can be purchased at the market
Creative and delicious Indigenous food can be found in Toronto’s Kensington Market at Pow Wow Cafe. Chef Shawn Adler is the owner of the eatery and a local celebrity who prepares the flavourful food.
Inspired by Chef Shawn’s childhood, the brunch and dinner menu include beer, chicken, fish and veggie tacos, corn soup and more. Complement a meal with cedar soda, a popular carbonated drink developed by the chef himself.
Details: call ahead or check the Pow Wow Cafe Facebook page before you visit, since this cafe has limited hours
Location: 213 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Tip: coffee lovers can pick up a bag of roasted blends of coffee from Birch Bark Coffee Co, a quality brand of Indigenous coffee
Although not Indigenous-owned, this quaint sit-down restaurant specializes in contemporary and modern Indigenous cuisine. Mouth-watering menu options include bison burgers, elk stew and grilled trout.
Details: Thursday, 3:00–8:00 p.m.; Friday, 12:00–8:00 p.m.; Saturday, 12:00–7:00 p.m.; closed Sunday to Wednesday
Location: 1294 Gerrard Street East, Toronto
Mother and daughter owners Paula and Jayde proudly showcase their Ojibwe heritage in the name of their cafe, which means “welcome” in the Ojibwe language. Located in Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park, stop by for a cup of coffee and delicious food.
The cafe also sells Indigenous products and hosts events featuring local Indigenous talent and Indigenous art workshops such as beading and learning to make moccasins.
Details: open Tuesday–Friday, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.; Sunday 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.; closed on Mondays
Location: 106–900 Exhibition Way, Ottawa
Wild rice is an Indigenous food that is flavourful and full of nutrients. There are also many delicious ways to enjoy it. Get hands-on knowledge about the traditions and techniques of harvesting and preparing wild rice from a family that has been harvesting it for generations.
Learn about the flavours and versatile ways of cooking rice, too. The family farm is located on Whitefish Lake, which is 70 kilometres southwest of Thunder Bay.
Details: the harvesting season is late September to early October
Location: Whitefish Lake, Nolalu
Arts and culture
Recognized nationally and internationally for its progressive innovation and excellence, imagineNATIVE is the world’s largest Indigenous film and media arts festival, showcasing Indigenous storytelling from around the world in audio, visual and digital formats.
Details: held annually each October
Native Renaissance is a gift shop, art gallery and cafe located in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, under 2 hours from Toronto. The art gallery features the artwork of well-known artists, such as award-winning sculptor Thomas B. Maracle.
Support Indigenous artists when you shop for food, arts and crafts and more in the gift shop.
Details: open 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Tip: the cafe is currently closed, but offers take-out
Places to stay
Owned by six local First Nations communities, the Manitoulin Hotel boasts designs and art that reflect First Nations heritage and tradition. Enjoy the warm hospitality and comfortable atmosphere in the teepee-shaped lobby with a fireplace and the cozy suites and guestrooms, equipped with modern amenities.
Take in the incredible views of Georgian Bay North Channel and the picturesque mountains and enjoy locally sourced dishes while dining at the hotel’s restaurant, North46.
Details: open year-round
Location: 66 Meredith Street East, Little Current
Stay at a cozy and luxurious wooden cabin outfitted with a kitchenette, private bathroom and a loft area surrounded by the beautiful Carolinian Forest. Just a 1.5-hour drive from Toronto, Chiefswood Park also offers entertaining guided and self-guided tours to museums and historical sites where you can learn about Haudenosaunee culture.
Details: cabins are available year-round with heating and cooling systems; historic sites and museums operate seasonally (check websites for dates and hours)
Location: 1037 Brant County Highway 54, Ohsweken
Tip: campsites near the Grand River, with a grill, firepit and picnic table, can be booked online
Located in the picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake, Six Nations House offers spacious accommodation filled with historic charm. It’s conveniently located close to the town’s shops, museum and downtown area.
The owners of Six Nations House are from Six Nations of the Grand River, and co-owner Tim Johnson is a direct descendant of Mohawk hero Joseph Brant. You can also learn about the contributions of the Six Nations from the historical book collection.
Details: open year-round
Location: 74 Gage Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Find more Indigenous Experiences across Ontario.
Last updated: September 27, 2023